Baby Boomer Babbling-er-Musings

I'm from the baby boomer generation. I have a mop of white hair, courtesy of my gene pool. And a botox-free face that sports frown lines in the forehead and around the eyes. Love handles instead of a waistline. Can't say I'm exactly crazy about any of these old age indicators but I accept them with grace. And now I've lived long enough now that I ponder on a lot of things, new and old.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Remembering the Drive-In Theater

Anyone who knows me well knows that my childhood memories are a little hazy at times. What I remember, I remember well. But what I don’t remember, well I just don’t. Unless, of course, someone helps “jog” that nebulous bubble in my brain.


Through conversations and photos recently posted in a Facebook group I had a memory breakthrough – recollections of my long-ago visits to the drive-in theater. Yes, there were dates as a young woman at the drive-in, some of which I remember and some I wish I didn’t. However, my fondest memories are those going to the drive-in as a little girl with my parents.

The Cedar Valley Drive-In Theater was located at Six Mile near the intersection of Highway 27 and Highway 411 South (going toward Cave Spring). I can still recall the awe I felt as we turned off the highway onto the entrance drive by the lake. Ahead was the two-story “mansion” with the drive-in name shining brightly in neon above it on the back of the giant outdoor screen. To a little girl it seemed an enormous, but grand sight!

Cedar Valley Drive-In Theater, Rome, GA
Photo of the Cedar Valley Drive-In Theater used
with permission from Ralph Tilly, Jr.]
Those days in the late 1950s were not easy for my parents on the financial front. While Daddy worked our Mama stayed home to raise me and my brother. On just his salary alone my parents had to find creative ways for the family to have fun. Creative meant no cost or low cost. So the he drive-in was a perfect cheap date for a family of four.

Late in the afternoon before Daddy came home from work Mama would send us off for our daily bath. By the time Daddy got home from work, we were already in our pajamas and pretty much jumping up and down in excitement. After a quick supper Mama would clean up the dishes and then things would start “popping”. Since they couldn’t afford the concession stand, Mama would use a lidded saucepan on the stove to pop a big batch of popcorn and then drizzle it with melted butter. In the meantime Daddy would take the ice trays from the freezer and pack ice cubes in the cooler around RC colas, his favorite drink in those days.

Drive-In Speakers / Route 66 / Oklahoma
©1987-2011 Bucks Mtn Galleries | Patricia Montgomery

Once at the drive-in it always took several tries before Daddy could find a speaker that would actually work or one that didn’t have a lot of static. The speaker hooked onto the raised car window and was one of two metal speakers perched at the top of a concrete pole. Two cars could pull up beside each pole, one on each side. One car had a speaker pulled to the passenger window and the other car had one on the driver’s side window.

If we arrived before dark then my little brother, Garry, and I could play at the playground. Mama would put our clear galoshes over our footed pajamas so that we wouldn’t get them dirty. Does anyone remember those clear galoshes? They fit over your shoes and the top folded over as a flap and was held down by an elastic band hooked over a button on the side of the boot. [NOTE: A vintage pair of the clear galoshes can be seen in the NVintageWest Etsy store.]

I still don’t recall much about the actual movies but I vividly recall cartoon commercials with dancing popcorn boxes, drink cups, and hotdogs. Then the countdown would be splashed across the screen stating that the movie will start in 20 minutes so visit the concession stand while you wait. We waited impatiently for the countdown to end so the cartoons-before-the-movie would start.

Dancing Food Circa 1960s
[The poster of the dancing drive-in food can be viewed/purchased at Bob’s Garage.]

Once the movie started, Mama drew an imaginary line down the middle of the back seat so that she would not have to hear complaints like, “Mama, she is on MY side!” or “Mama, he touched me!”. We would curl up on our respective sides of the back seat, snuggling into the pillow and blankets from home. After a few spiteful kicks, Garry and I would fall asleep, toe-to-toe, long before the movie was over.

I do remember family movie nights at two other drive-ins in Rome, one on the site where the Big Lots shopping center is located and the other one out on Highway 53. At the West Rome Drive-In there was a huge slide on the playground. It might not have actually been any bigger than a normal slide but it seemed gigantic in my little girl’s eyes.
The first drive-in in the U.S. opened in 1933 in Camden, New Jersey. By the 1960s drive-in theaters had reached their peak with almost 3,000 drive-ins across the United States. The largest was on Long Island, New York and sprawled out on 29 acres! A decline began in the 1970s and now, by some estimates, there are less than 400 operating in the United States.

If you still live in the Rome area and would like to experience a movie at a drive-in theater, the 411 Twin Drive-In is open during the summer months in Centre, Alabama. It is located just off highway 411 South, between Leesburg & Centre, behind Mufflers & More. You can call 256-927-2855 for showtimes.

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I’ve also been reminiscing, pondering, and musing on these topics:

 One my early dates with the hubby
My first lesson on biscuit making
The lost art of letter writing
Cups for hot mochas.Say Good Night Gracie.
My first visit to the library with my Mama
Driving Mama over the Edge
It’s a Little Off the Wall
Crushing on The Professor
The Avocado Tree
From Baby Food Jars to Peanut Butter Jars

Christmas Memories
Theory of Pancake Relativity
Betcha Can't Pop Just One

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